Since COVID-19 upended our daily life and much of what we considered to be normal, I have to admit that there has been one interesting silver lining: The burden of modern mothering has become very, very visible. Prior to this, coverage of the topic of the emotional labor endured by mothers has been left for the occasional op-ed piece or self-help book. It has also certainly been fodder for bloggers and vloggers, who have found the only way to get some attention on the subject is to place it in the realm of humor. That is to say, it hasn’t been taken seriously. And let’s be real. That is because, up until now, it has been a women’s issue. That means that it is something that ought to be just endured, not solved or supported. It is something that should be handled better and anyone who is a “good” mother will rise to the occasion. It is something that can be done right and, well, if you are suffering, then you had better get better at it or stop complaining. It is very similar to the fact that I just discovered that abdominal surgeries to repair medical conditions related to childrearing, like diastasis recti and hernias, are actually considered cosmetic and thus not covered by insurance.
But, when school shut down and men had to stay home and try to work and stay sane, then guess what … the world started to pay attention. All of a sudden, ever publication from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal doled out serious coverage on the difficulties and errors in how we have set up the modern family and the toll that it takes on the primary caregiver(s). Alongside that, we got some tips from experts and tons of support. Resources began to develop and I could see, with dangling hope, changes to this screwed up system beginning to emerge. Moms everywhere began to say loudly and without the normal apologetic dance in self-degrading humor, that this way of existing was causing real and legit physical and emotional harm. Spouses who happen to men began to say, HOLY SHIT, this is impossible. I can’t be home with these kids all day long and stay sane. And I especially can’t do my job in a hard-fought career AND take care of them.
And it is important to note, before I go further, that I see no distinction between working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. In fact, I hate the distinction. YES, there are clear differences in the burdens we each carry. But, we do ourselves a disservice by creating those divisions. The root cause is that motherhood is not visible in this country and that invisibility creates varying degrees of load on women. The problem is not if you work or if you stay home, but that we don’t respect, honor, support, and SEE the female experience especially as its related to birthing and raising children.
In any case, as a woman who works full time with children at home, I can tell you right now that this COVID-19 experience is a magnification of what I have felt every single day for the past 13 years as mother. It hasn’t just created a sudden burden, it has magnified my daily grind to a degree that, to use the earlier metaphor, might now be “covered by insurance”.
Ugh. This is so frustrating to me. Why? Because I know that we are about to become invisible again. Spouses who are not primary caregivers are about to go back to the office or at least will have secured enough of a home office that they can get uninterrupted time to work and breathe and think and pee and sleep, etc. The spotlight will dim and the load women carry will be left to be celebrated through occasional spa days and breakfasts in bed. We will see a ton of commercials revering all that mothers do and we will see products line up exploiting the ways we suffer. Yet, we will see no changes to the basic infrastructure that has gotten us here. No maternity leave rights. No affordable childcare. No equal pay. No community based living or supports. No stipends or subsidies for single mothers. No real refuge for abused women.
I hate to be a bummer here, as it is not my usual style. But, I feel it. I am frustrated and I am tired. We had a window, didn’t we? We did. I suppose the question I need to be asking is, how do I keep that window open? What can I do?
The good news is that I am here, doing this MommaStrong thing every single day because, yes, I love my career, but also because I cannot give up on the idea that at some point in my lifetime the way in which we raise children will be supported equally and fully. The need for the respect of maternal health will be brought above the need for a man’s erection. Think about it for a second: If we really did respect maternal health and we really provided the support that mothers need, couldn’t we change the world? I think so. And I think that because of all the research out there about the power and influence of secure attachments in infancy over brain function, emotional regulation, social interaction, immune function, and general wellbeing. I don’t know why we downplay this and I don’t know why, in 2020, we are still just putting out the fires that are caused by harms that happen to everyone - to the whole society - when a mother is not supported in her role.
I refuse to become invisible. And I refuse to let that happen to you.
And now I will admit that I hate doing the following thing that I am about to do which is to invite you to join MommaStrong. And I hate it because it sounds like a sales pitch and it may get read the wrong way. I don’t know. It’s hard these days, in a world where everything is commodified and everything is a product opportunity. But. Listen. I am not a salesperson, I am an activist. I am unapologetic about the work we do and its need to reach all the mothers I know. Because we offer something that changes the foundation of our ability to mother and to also stay whole. And it’s so affordable that we ought to have a designation as a non-profit organization. Everyone at the MommaStrong team works their tails off with every penny that comes our way. No one is rolling in it. We are working diligently through thick and thin to continue offering this service. We won’t give up. And I won’t apologize for my invitation. Because you deserve to know what is possible when you are not invisible and when your function is valued over your appearance.
This month, we are celebrating our visibility. We will spend June showing up together each day for 5-15 minutes function-focused exercise. Our members will also be sharing daily hacks and skills and resources that have saved their butts. By the end we will have a stockpile of survival tools such that it will feel like we are living in a neighborhood with moms at every house just pitching in without asking when shit gets real. Along with that, every day of June, I will be writing to various institutions and entities requesting services for mothers and fighting for equal rights for women and I'll provide you with template letters/emails you can use too.
I know things are hard right now. But, we can do this together and we can stay visible and we can create change. It matters. You matter. Click here as a current member or a new member to join our neighborhood - I mean our June Challenge. It starts June 8th. It's only $5 if you are a new member and free for current members.
See you soon :)